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Julia Hülsmann: piano
Marc Muellbauer: double bass
Heinrich Köbberling: drums

With Sooner and Later, her sixth ECM album, Julia Hülsmann returns to the trio format of her successful recordings End of a Summer (2008) and Imprint (2011). The Berlin pianist calls Sooner and Later “ a product of the last two or three years – though these had been filled with a lot of non-trio activities such as the concerts supporting the quartet recording In Full View (2013) and the quintet album A Clear Midnight – Kurt Weill and America featuring singer Theo Bleckmann (2015).

But, as the pianist is ready to point out, not only were her partners in the trio, bassist Marc Muellbauer and drummer Heinrich Köbberling, involved in most of these ventures, in between them the trio undertook extensive travels to distant destinations – among them the US, Canada, Peru, Central Asia and China – „there something special developed within the trio. When traveling you not only gain new perspectives, but also experience even long standing partners anew. It helped to open up new sonic territory for us“.

The Central-Asian weeks find their most explicit expression on the new album in the form of „Biz Joluktuk“ – a tune the band heard in performance from a 12 year old violinist in Kyrgyzstan and which was later re-harmonized by Julia. Once again all three members of the group have contributed compositions to a Hülsmann trio album. “Heinrich’s pieces all start, as you would expect from a drummer, on a rhythmic level”, explains Hülsmann, “but then he always surprises me with his very friendly melodies. He infuses very special harmonic colors into our sound.” Whereas Marc Muellbauer’s compositions, as Hülsmann puts it, “are mostly based on quite complex, very clever harmonics – but when you finally play them, they reveal a great clarity and self-evidence.”

Hülsmann’s own pieces have all been for quite a while part of the band’s stage repertoire, “where they could develop and mature in a very natural, organic way”, as the leader says. The title of her piece “Thatpujai” is an anagram of “Jutta Hipp”, and its theme is comprised of phrases from the late German jazz pianist’s solos.

The program is rounded out by „All I Need“, a song originally from UK rock group Radiohead. Like the Hülsmann-penned tracks „J.J.“, „Soon“ or „Mond“ with their sometimes almost clubby grooves, it emphasizes the subtle rhythmic aspects of their music, unheard of on the trio’s earlier recordings.

Sooner and Later was recorded in September 2016 in Oslo’s Rainbow Studio, and produced by Manfred Eicher.


Julia Hülsmann (born in 1968 in Bonn) began playing piano at the age of 11. She formed her first band at the age of 16. In 1991 she moved to Berlin, and played in the Bundesjugendjazzorchestra under the direction of Peter Herbolzheimer. After recordings featuring singers Roger Cicero, Rebekka Bakken, and Anna Lauvergnac, she brought her music to ECM. The album End of a Summer, emphasizing the unique character of her trio, marked a new beginning.

Bassist Marc Muellbauer (born in London in 1968) also leads his own nine-piece band, Kaleidoscope and founded the Wood & Steel Trio. He has a wide musical background ranging from contemporary classical to tango, as well as jazz with diverse formations. Currently he is also a member of the Lisbeth Quartett. Muellbauer teaches double-bass at the Jazzinstitut Berlin.

Drummer Heinrich Köbberling (born in Bad Arolsen/Hessen in 1967) has worked with Aki Takase, Ernie Watts, Anat Fort, Richie Beirach and many others: he has played on around 50 jazz albums. A 1997 leader date, “Pisces” included Marc Johnson and Ben Monder as sidemen. Köbberling teaches drums at the FMB Conservatory in Leipzig.

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